Okay. Any of you out there willing to read this, it is my first stab at writing. I’m nearly done with this book “The Lone Wolf” and I’d like to get some feedback. This is a fantasy book ( “Lord of the Rings” type), so if it sounds like it might be interesting, please keep reading.
This has not been edited professionally (so bear with me if there are typos and grammatical issues), but it has been looked over by several sets of eyes (so I’m hoping it isn’t too painful to read through)
This is the first chapter and it is a bit longer than the standard post we layout. I hope that you enjoy.
John D. Pepe
The lone tracker rose from where he had been studying the ground, wiping the moist dirt from his hands. As he stood, the biting, chill wind tore through his normally protective animal skins, causing him to shudder. His shoulder length locks whipped across his face as he stared out across the plains, unable to see the beasts he had been tracking. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply, feeling the frosty breeze fill his lungs. Winter was nearing its end, but still clung to life. The day’s rains had washed away almost all traces of any passing. But what the earth failed to tell the tracker, the winds did not. Like a feral animal the scent of his quarry was caught in his nostrils, confirming that he was on the right trail.
The last warming rays of the sun were being engulfed by the horizon, as dusk fell upon the tracker. The remaining nimbus clouds shrouded out any vestiges of light from the heavens, leaving the lands darker than usual. His eyesight was sharper than the average man, even in the dark, but he knew that would not be enough. He would have to rely on his other senses, and his visceral instincts to guide him, as he would not get close to those he was tracking, a tribe of orcs known as Blog Kragor, or the Blood Fangs, until it was fully dark. Even if he had been completely blind he did not fear finding them, as they were numerous and did not bathe.
He let his body, senses, and soul attune to nature, becoming not unlike the plains wolves of Vaasa, an animal hunting its prey. As he continued his dogged pursuit of the orcs, he was being pulled further and further from home, but he allowed it to happen because he could sense that he was gaining ground. The creatures’ pungent odor, one mixed with sweat and dirt, was becoming more pronounced.
His eyes adjusted to the near coal black night, absorbing what little light they could find. It wasn’t much, but enough for him to make out an outcropping of boulders ahead, along the path that the orcs had traveled.
“What are you up to?” he mouthed silently, a question he had been asking since the morning when he happened upon their trail. Why had the tribe crossed territorial boundaries? He wondered. This was not of the norm, unless it was in times of war, and he had heard no such grumblings of late.
As he stalked up to the outcropping of rocks, the path by which he was sure the orcs had taken he heard what appeared to be revelry beyond. He moved in closer, and the closer he got the louder the cacophony grew. He reached the massive rocks and peered around, looking out over the precipice and down into the canyon. His mouth dropped, and his heart jumped into his throat. Orcs everywhere!
He ducked back behind the boulders, pressing his back against the rock, more for emotional support than for any physical need. He gathered his wits, then slowly peeked again, this time trying to gage how many orcs were present. He couldn’t be sure, but by his estimation they appeared to number more than five hundred. Never in his seventeen winters had he seen so many orcs in one place.
The orcs were all over the canyon floor, dancing and gyrating around huge bonfires, with orc shamans bestowing blessings from their one-eyed god, Gruumsh, upon all who engaged in the ritual frenzy. With closer inspection he realized the shamans did not wear the distinguishing marks of one tribe, but of several tribes. Tribes that normally vie for territory against one another. This explains why the Blood Fangs are so far from their territory. But why are these normally warring factions suddenly frolicking together? was his first thought about the scene below.
He chuckled. “When do orcs frolic?”
He did not understand all the intricacies of the orc culture. The only real contact he had with an orc was his half-orc companion from childhood, Gromken, who had grown up amongst his human tribe, and knew little more about orcs than himself. What little the tracker had garnered in his short life had been taught to him by the men in his village, and what he had witnessed from a far. But, his comprehension of the orc language was fair. He had picked up a bit of the it from some of the elder tribesmen who had learned the language from their trading with Palischuk, a half-orc community north east of their village.
He weighed his options and found he had few. He could play it safe, run home now and tell about what he saw, giving his people little information on the intent of this group or he could try and use his limited understanding of the orc language to see if he could gather some information on why these normally warring factions were “frolicking” together.
After a few moments of deliberation, he made up his mind. He would try the latter. But in order to do that he would have to get close to these monsters, so he could listen in on any conversations to be had.
He surveyed the land and spotted a long berm on the outskirts of the orc encampment. The spot looked close enough so he could listen in, yet far enough away to provide shelter to help keep him warded from detection. The berm was under the cover of darkness, just beyond the finger tips reach of the bonfires’ light.
He slithered down the trail into enemy territory, moving slow and cautious. He had just slipped off the trail into the small bit of brush when he heard what he thought were footsteps. He stopped, tuning his ear, trying to determine if he was just hearing things.
Footsteps! And they are getting closer! He hung his head in the dirt trying not to think of being caught, knowing if he was discovered his life would be forfeit. His heart was pounding so loudly he felt as if all Faerun could hear it. If I am discovered what will these orcs do to me? Flay me? Torture me? I must flee! I’m in the open! I will be discovered!
With his angst heightened, he began to sweat profusely. His entire body started to shake, as his mind swirled about, conjuring all the pain that would be inflicted upon him. His breath came in deep gasps. At that moment, he got into a push up position, ready to bolt. He could taste the fear in his mouth, acrid and sour, and he wanted to scream to expel it.
Then, something came over him. Closing his eyes, he went deep within himself. His instincts for survival took over, and his nerves settled. His body stopped shaking, and the fear washed away. He took control of his emotions. Opening his eyes, he felt a fire burning behind them, a fire that conveyed he had changed from being the hunted to the one now hunting. Instead of feeling the urge to run, he drew his knife, flattened himself against the earth, and calmed his breath so his body did not make a move.
The footsteps move off. He let out a breath of relief, as he watched the lone sentry move down the trail, unaware he had even been there. Had I gotten up and ran I would have been discovered for sure. That was a sobering thought. Thank you Tymora for showering your luck upon me. Once the orc sentry had moved far enough off, he resumed his belly crawl to the berm.
After what seemed an eternity, but was actually only minutes, he settled into his spot and began deciphering whatever he could pick up from the orcs’ conversations. So much of it was brutish and foreign to him. He chastised himself, I should have paid closer attention to the elders’ teachings.
Because he lacked mastery of the guttural language, it slowed down the process and he knew it might well take all night to garner anything useful, if he was to garner anything at all. The real problem was that he only had so much time before the red rays of dawn would betray him. Hopefully, Tymora, the goddess of luck and good fortune, would not.
It was several hours before Tymora granted him the luck he had hoped for. Overlooking the canyon’s bottom was a cave with a large rock shelf that jutted out. Several ogres appeared upon the rock shelf, the smallest of them being flanked by four larger ones. The smaller of the creatures carried no weapons, save a dagger sheathed at his belt. He wore ornate, colorful robes, and with what must have been magically enhanced voice bellowed out an order for the crowd to cease its frenzied activities. The entire encampment of orcs stopped, turned, and began to listen intently.
He was confused. “A magical ogre?” questioning himself. Then he realized, from somewhere in the recesses of his mind, he had heard that some ogres had the power to wield magic.
The tracker managed to discern a portion of the tirade. The magical ogre spoke of the atrocities of the goodly races and how they had waged a war of extermination against ogres, orcs, and even the lowly goblin-kind. He spoke of uniting and exact revenge, promising that their gods would shine down upon them if they were to take the fight to the humans, dwarves, elves, and the like. Finishing, he swore, that on the morrow, just after sunup, they would begin their march against the good races. They would retake the lands that belonged to them, the lands their ancestors had willed to them, and their first target in this conquest – – the Bloodstone Gate!
The crowd hung on every word, lapping it up like a thirsty dog does water. The chants for blood went up, and the frenzy started all over again. The lone tracker watched as the magical ogre and his brutes retired back into the cave.
My village is right in the beasts’ path. I must get back to warn my people. They are in harm’s way. I must flee, now! The urgency began to well up within him and he nearly forgot where he was…amongst orcs. He would be going nowhere with any swiftness if he wanted to attempt to avoid detection. So, he steeled his nerves and started his slow and circumspect retreated to the top of the ravine.
It was an arduous and uncomfortable crawl back up to the top of the canyon as the terrain was rocky. He had nearly reached what he thought would be safety, when heard the piggish, grunting language of the orc. He stopped his ascent, listening and looking on with intent. He saw the outlines of what he assumed were two orc sentries at the apex of the ravine. Just my luck. I can get in, but I can’t get out. He hoped that Tymora’s luck was still with him, praying that the sentries would move away, for dawn was fast approaching and if the sun was to rise with him trapped in the orc encampment…. He let the consequences of that possibility evaporate from his thoughts.
He waited patiently, but to no avail. It would appear that the goddess has abandoned me. He looked skyward. Or maybe you prefer to bestow bad luck on me, one of your many tricks you love to play, he mused, sighing.
The two orcs had become engaged in what appeared to be some sort of deep, intellectual debate. He chuckled to himself, Orcs debating? Intellectually? Well, maybe not deep and intellectual, but they are arguing about something. He listened, and waited, as the debate began to escalate in intensity. It’s just a matter of time before this turns into a fight, and that will play to my advantage. I just have to wait for the inevitable, for the nature of the orc to take over. The one thing he had learned about the race of orcs was that they had a propensity for violence and were ever volatile. When the blows begin I’ll be able to make my escape undetected.
But those propensities never played out. After several minutes the two calmed, resumed their lax posture, amiable conversation, and returned to their seemingly unconcerned vigilance. The tracker knew enough about orcs, and if it had been any other two who had argued like that it would have quickly deteriorated into a physical altercation, possibly with the death of one. There is something different about these orcs…more disciplined…more unified. The entire encampment was quickly quelled by that magical ogre. And now these two?
Pushing the thought aside, he knew he must discover a way out of here, as the precious mantle of night was fast fading. If his luck did not change, his cloak would be removed, then he would be meeting Tymora, not just praying to her. She is known as the goddess of luck, yet it seems it is mostly bad for me. Aww, the whims of the gods. He let go of his contemplations and told himself he must focus on what is real. What was here in front of him. He knew he couldn’t wait for some goddess he had never seen, nor heard, to help him. He would have to rely on himself, and himself alone.
His first thought was to engage in a straight-out fight with these two, but the only weapon he carried of any true significance was his bow. He could see better in the dark than any man he knew, but even with this gift the night would work to his disadvantage. His aim would be too unpredictable, and it would be difficult to make an accurate shot, and if he missed, and there was a good chance he might, he would alert them to his presence, then it would be two against one. That was a proposition that meant almost certain death, as he only carried his hunting knife if the encounter fell to hand-to-hand combat. He cursed himself for not strapping on his sword before he left home.
He continued to work through the situation logically. Even if I could get the jump on one and strike a killing blow I would still have a protracted fight with the other, which would probably bring the entire encampment down upon me.
Could I even kill? I kill animals, but orcs? Humanoids? He had never contemplated it. But now, being faced with the situation he questioned it. Why? These orcs would slay me without compunction…The vile creatures! He had a small pang of guilt for the thought.
“Sorry my friend,” he whispered to the night, as if his friend Gromken had been standing next to him. The guilt quickly passed as he knew that if Gromken had heard his thoughts he would have taken no offense, for he had no true kinship to the orcs.
Why am I reluctant to return that which would be given to me? Is it my friendship with Gromken? Maybe because I am human…because by killing I might lose a portion of my humanity? He stirred from his meandering thoughts, knowing he could not simply sit and think, he had to act.
Then it hit him…Distraction! That is what I need. He would use their relaxed guard and “intellectual conversation” to his advantage. The tracker improvised at this point, moving to action.
Groping around in the dark, he found a couple fist-size rocks, one for each hand. He then slid himself over the side of the dirt trail that headed to the level part of the ridge where the orcs were stationed, the place where he first made his way into the encampment. His plan simple: I’ll get them below my position, but close enough so I can make out their silhouettes. I’ll come up over the lip, and throw a rock at each of them, distracting them just long enough to use the high ground to my favor by surprising them with a charge. Hopefully I can knock them from the trail, or at least down it. Then I’ll run for safety.
He thought about simply running once they were past him but knew if the orcs had ranged weapons, bows or spears, he might take a missile in the back. His plan was the best he could he could come up with considering the terrain, circumstances, and equipment he possessed.
“Tymora be with me,” he prayed, “I’m really going to need some of that good luck now.”
Slipping over the lip and into darkness, he mustered his nerve and called out to the sentries in his limited orc tongue. The talking ceased, and he heard the crunching of pebbles and the scarping of boots on hard dirt grow louder. It sounded as if it was the footsteps of both creatures approaching. He felt the lump in his throat, his hands began to moisten, and the thumping of his heart rang in his ears. He took a large, dry gulp as time seemed to stand still.
The orcs moved past him, but only by a handful of yards, stopping to discern where the call had come from. This was his chance…but he froze! He was in the grip of fear, and remained as still as a statue, unable to will his extremities to move. He would be a dead statue if he did not act quickly. The orcs are unaware of my presence. I mustn’t tarry. I must strike now! Then, as before, his instinct for survival took over. He felt his heart rate calm, his senses heighten, and his fear dissipate. Something primal had grabbed a hold of his will and he transformed immediately, becoming the hunter once again.
He slid back over the lip, silently, ghost like, and stayed melded to the earth, as if he was part of it. He squeezed the stones in his hands tightly, as if he wanted to crush them, eager to get at his adversaries. But he remained patient, waiting a second or two for his vison to adjust so he could make sure he did not miss his targets. A split second later, he jumped to his feet, hurling the stone in his right hand. Stepping forward with his right foot, he released the one in his left hand, and with it the tension he felt, casting all of it at his enemies.
The hunter was as good with his right hand as he was with his left, and both stones found their marks. The orc farthest from him, the one hit by his first throw, took the worst of it as he was caught completely off guard. The blow struck him square in the face, shattering bone and sending him over the edge. As he heard his enemy tumble down the hillside he had a passing thought thanking Tymora for her blessing.
But Tymora did not provide him the same good luck when it came to the other. Although the stone hit its mark, the second orc had a moment to absorb that something was amiss. The creature had turned at the last second, causing the rock to glance off its shoulder, doing little in the way of physical damage to the pig-faced thing.
The Lone Wolf did not hesitate. His knife flashed in an adroit fashion as he pounced on the remaining orc. The beast did not even have a chance to react before he plunged the knife into its lower chest, up, under the ribcage, as his father had taught him. The knife sunk into flesh and was only forced to stop because the cross guard hit bone and would go no further. He heard the exhale of breath as it was forced from the creature’s lungs. It tried gasping for air, but instead found desperation. The precision of the blow had prevented the orc from crying out in pain. The hunter felt the warmth of blood spill down upon his hand. His strike was true, felling the orc in one quick thrust.
The orc slumped forward into him and he eased it to the ground, so it made no sound. He yanked his knife from the orc’s flesh. It took a second before he realized what he had just done. He was shaking, the adrenaline still coursing through his entire body. He just stood there, staring at the corpse, unmoving. No rising and falling of its chest. It was dead, and he had killed it, and wasn’t sure how to feel. A moment later he came back to his senses, realizing where he was, in a nest of vipers. He reached down, and with his hands still shaking he fumbled with the garments of the dead orc. He used them to wipe his knife and his hand clean of blood. He then slid his knife back into its place in his belt, scanned the area to make sure that no others had heard the brief scuffle, and scurried off.
As he descended the ridge, the first glimmer of the sun’s golden rays were cresting. Remence knew he had barely escaped, hearing the encampment coming to life. The heightened drama of the situation was wearing off and he felt exhaustion setting in. He was famished, and he wanted nothing more than to eat a hot meal and lay his head upon his bed, but he knew if he wanted to save his people that was not going to be an option. The orcs would be on the move, probably within a couple of movements of the sun, excited to spill blood. They would be headed straight for Bloodstone Gate, and what lay in their path was dearer to him than food or rest: his village. He picked up his pace and headed straight for home to warn his people.